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Teaching Special Needs Kid at home; Cooking and Maths.

calendarApril 24 2020

Cooking and Maths; Here’s how!

In these days of lock down we are trying to juggle being a parent, housework, our day job and teaching Special Needs kids at home!

But there is a way to turn cooking into easy Maths lessons!

You may be seeing lots of talk online about how people are ‘giving up’ trying to teach their kids. You can’t turn your home into a replica of the classroom but talking about ‘giving up’ can make you feel like a failure. You are definitely not a failure, and here we show you how you can sneak a bit of learning into your day to make you feel like the Superstar Parent you are!

Instead of creating a formal learning environment and getting frustrated because your child is getting distracted, get them involved in an activity like cooking. You can use food to teach Maths, language, science, history, geography and even religious studies!

Food, Glorious Food!

The ideas below should give you some ideas on how to teach your child Maths whilst learning some vital life skills, in this case cooking!

You can cook anything but baking is particularly good because of all the weighing and measuring you have to do.

An image of a home-cooked pizza
Pizza is a great way of teaching Maths, you even get dinner at the end of it!

Before you start

Most of our resources don’t need any preparation. But for cooking, it is usually best to make sure you are ready before you invite your child into the kitchen. I always get the ingredients out and make sure I have the right bowls and utensils ready before I start. If I am rummaging around in cupboards and draws looking for whisks, scales and measuring spoons, our kids will lose interest before we even start.

Choose the right recipe

You probably don’t need me to tell you this but don’t choose anything too complicated. Teaching special needs kids at home is all about simplicity. Better for you and better for your child. So, it is best to choose something you would normally cook anyway. For example, pizza is great. The dough just needs 4 ingredients, then you can get as creative as you like. Cupcakes are better if your child is impatient, as they cook in just 10-12 minutes and you don’t have to wait for dough to rise.

If you are using a recipe from a book, are there pictures? Is the page clear to read? You might need to write the recipe out to make it easier for your child to understand. Creating recipe sheets using pictures or communication cards to show your child what to do can also be helpful.

Using scales to weigh out ingredients is a great way to learn but often, American recipes that use cups are more accessible. Our daughter loves to use cups and getting the measurements precise by leveling them off with a (blunt) knife.

Just do a little at a time

Don’t forget, when you start teaching while you are cooking, just try one idea at a time. Trying to turn everything into a lesson when teaching special needs kids at home will just stress you out and your child will protest! Once you get started, it will become natural and you will start to see opportunities for learning in everything you do!

Maths and Cooking

ActivityMaths Learning ideas

Shape Finding and identifying Ask your child to find the containers you need by SHOWING them a picture of shape e.g find the large cylinder that has the sugar in it

Or you can ask them to find a container by describing the container’s properties e.g get me the large container that has 3 faces and 2 edges (cylinder again)
NumberCounting and number Count how many things you are using

Show your child a number and ask them to get that number of things e.g.:
– Get 2 spoons (show them the number 2 with 2 spoons next to it)
– find 3 carrots
– put 3 spoons of sugar in the bowl
– cut up 1 banana
Finding numbersAsk your child to find numbers in the recipe or on the packet. You can ask them to find any number – ‘where are the numbers?’ Or to find a specific number – ‘where is the number 3?’.

Extension: ask your child to find cooking time in the recipe or on the packet.
or ask your child to find weight in the recipe or on the packet.
TimeUnderstanding time and telling timePoint to a clock in the kitchen and ask or tell your child what the time is

You can point to the cooking time in the recipe or on the packet or ask them to find the cooking time. For extension, you can ask how far the big hand needs to travel around the clock for your food to be cooked.

Look at the clock to note the times you start and finish cooking. For extension, work out how long the food was cooking.

Ask your child to set a timer for the cooking time

If you are cooking something with a short cooking time, you can use an egg timer to watch the sand show time passing. You can even count how many times you need to turn it.
Weight and volume Understanding
weights and measures
When you are baking ask the children to weigh the things out for you in grams and kilograms. A digital scale is best as the children can read the numbers easily.

Ask children to pour out liquid for the mixture e.g 500 millilitres of milk or 1/2 a litre of milk into a clearly marked measuring jug.
FractionsUnderstanding fractionsAsk your child to add ‘half’ the flour or a ‘third’ of the water to a mixture.

Recipes that use cups are great for this as they often call for halfs, quarters, thirds. If you have time play a little with the cups and show kids how you need two 1/2 cups, four 1/4 cups or three 1/3 cups to to fill one whole cup with water, flour or rice.

Ask your child to cut their finished pizza or cake cake into half/ quarters/ eighths/ etc.

We hope this gives you a few ideas. If you need any help, please post in our Education Forum here and we’ll get back to you.

You’ll find more resources for teaching special needs kids at home in our blog section, along with some other very interesting reads!

About Us

Emma Bara has taught about environmental topics and science for years, running whole school education projects, teacher training, science clubs for primary school kids and GCSE Science tutoring. David Bara has years of experience as a SEN teacher and Senior Lecturer of Special Educational Needs. They are the Co-Founders of WeCanAccess.com.

David and Emma Bara

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